If you’ve taken the time to scroll through your accounts lately, it’s clear that social media and advertising go hand in hand. With the introduction and rise of ad-free streaming services, many businesses have had to look elsewhere for their captive audience. Today, annual spending on social media advertising exceeds $17 billion in the United States alone.

The secondary draw, other than being held captive by the multiple screens we carry with us daily, is the ability for advertisers to target exactly the consumers they believe are most likely to convert into customers. Of course, that much control can’t be achieved without someone to aim the ads where they need to go.

Good social media advertising requires a lot of thought about who your ideal audience is and what strategies will work best for reaching them. Hootsuite recommends following these three steps to identifying what works best for you.

geralt / Pixabay

Step One: Create Audience Personas

A well-crafted audience persona allows you to personalize your social media advertising on a large scale by humanizing core target groups of your customer base. Personalization is becoming a must on the social media world, with more than half of all consumers (and two-thirds of millennials) expecting personalized offers.

The idea behind an audience persona is to create a profile of your ideal customer as if they were a real person – allowing you to craft targeted marketing messages to them that address their specific needs. Since different groups of people may buy your products or utilize your service for different reasons, creating more than one audience persona is encouraged.

Each persona should include basic demographic details, behaviors, goals, frustrations and buying patterns. You can take this farther by brainstorming lists of likes and dislikes, preferences, similar brands they may be interested in and popular media they may consume. If you need a starting point, try these tricks:

  • Learn who is already buying from you. Gather all of the information you can about your customer base, including age, location, language, income, buying behavior, interests and activities and life stages (such as college student, new parent, retirement age, etc.). Depending on your business size and budget, you can also try email and online surveys, focus groups and customer interviews.
  • Dig into your website and social analytics. Social media analytics tools can provide an astounding amount of information about the people who are interacting with your brand online, even if they aren’t customers yet. If you have a Facebook page, check out the Audience Insights tab for a wealth of information.
  • See what the competition is up to. Once you’ve gathered details about your own customers and fans, take a peek at who’s interacting with your direct competition. Are they reaching the same target groups as you? Are they targeting groups that you aren’t, but should be? What can you learn about their efforts (good and bad) that you can use to set your business apart?

You should also determine exactly what your goals are. Here are the five most common when it comes to paid social media advertising, according to Sprout Social:

  1. Increase Traffic: If you need more eyes on your homepage, blog or product landing pages, traffic helps. Traffic goals boost your total unique visitors and pageviews. This goal is perfect if you’re looking to promote a new site, brand, product or sale/deal.
  2. Increase Visibility: Higher awareness of your brand leads to more purchases, recognition and loyal customers. Visibility goals are great for increasing reach and impressions, which is ideal for brand awareness campaigns.
  3. Increase Engagement: How can you tell if users actually like your posts? Measuring engagement through shares, comments, likes and retweets can help you understand what content works best. It also allows your brand get the conversation going with users.
  4. Increase Lead Generation: Many brands use paid social ads to help generate leads. This is ideal for brands wanting to promote gated content or other resources that can help users become more invested in your brand. This can be a multi-step campaign as you could target these invested users specifically on the next ad. It also helps bring prospects into your funnel.
  5. Increase Sales: Online retailers have plenty of social advertising options to help sell products and services. Brands can run tests on paid ads to see product interest or to help run deals to get more sales. This is also ideal for brands releasing new product features.

Step Two: Know Which Social Media Platform And Targeting Options Are Best For Reaching Your Audience With Advertising

If you had exciting news to share with the important people in your life, how would you do it? It might be a phone call to your parents, an update on LinkedIn for your professional contacts, and an update in a group chat for your friends. It works the same way in advertising. Understanding your audience personas gives you insight into how to best reach each of them.

When it comes to examining your targeting options available for advertising, two main categories emerge. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide the widest variety of targeting options, most of which focus on a collage of data provided by a user’s personal profile as well as the people, pages, and groups they interact with. Twitter focuses less on profile data and provides targeting opportunities based on keywords, hashtags, and conversations happening within the networks. LinkedIn caters to the professional side of social media users, focusing on their industry, job title, company size and areas of interest and expertise.

Keep these differences in mind as you develop your advertising strategies for each. For example, you may promote an upcoming event on Twitter using the hashtag #WeekendPlans but focus on targets with similar interests and a nearby geographic location on Facebook.

Building The Creative For Your Social Media Advertising

Between steps two and three comes my personal favorite: building the creative! We’ve covered this a number of times on the Three Girls blog, so here are a few quick tips:

  • Remember the call to action! How do you want them to respond to your ad? This is your call to action! If you can entice them with something of value (such as a special discount or giveaway), even better
  • Use clear, crisp visuals
  • Update your ad content every several weeks; if the ads are showing up in the same users’ feeds, you don’t want it to get stale
  • Put the most compelling information first since that’s what will draw users’ attention
  • Be relevant and timely
  • Don’t use too many words in your visuals – in fact, Facebook only allows you to cover 20 percent of the image with text (they have an Image Text Check tool in the Creative Hub that can help you determine if there are too many words on your photo)
  • Consider including user-generated content to add a personal touch to the ads – just make sure you have permission from the user first!
  • Include hashtags in your ads (remember each platforms’ best practices when you do this)
  • Keep the mobile user in mind! Remember 90 percent of social media users are accessing the platform on their phones and tablets, so make sure the ads are compelling on these devices as well
  • Create a landing page for your website specifically for social media users that click on your ad; creating a custom page allows you to target the first page they see on your website to reference the ad’s content or something specific they may be interested in
PhotoMIX-Company / Pixabay

Step Three: Optimize And Build Off Of Your Existing Audience To Maximize ROI

Once you’ve dialed in your audience and wrapped up multiple successful social media campaigns, you can use that data to create remarketing and lookalike audiences. These similar-but-separate groups help cover more individuals who may be likely to convert in future campaigns.

Unlike creating an audience from scratch, this method is a precise way of targeting people on social media based on data gathered from relevant sources. Remarketing and lookalike audiences generally have a higher likelihood of success thanks to the data they’re based on.

Building a Remarketing Audience

Remarketing is especially effective, since the data is proprietary – pulled from your own website (which can be gathered using a Facebook pixel or LinkedIn Insight Tag), email lists, customer data (if your organization uses a CRM), or platform data of users who have interacted with your pages on social media.

Proprietary data can also be used to narrow the scope of your reach by excluding people you know won’t be interested in further advertising. This could be people who have already converted and purchased your product/signed up for your service, or people who have already made multiple visits to your site and no longer need brand awareness. Narrowing your scope ensures your ad budget goes towards new leads

Building A Lookalike Audience

If you’ve found that one of your custom audiences is performing well, and you would like to build on that, you can use the targeting information to make create a lookalike audience. This allows your social media platform to pull the data from the first audience and build a list of similar users.

Data for a lookalike audience can come from past campaign conversions, as well as any available lists, engagement and pixel data, or social media followers. Building a lookalike audience allows you to reach new people beyond your current customer list and fanbase, and ensures your advertising reaches people who are likely to engage with your brand.